Major infrastructure improvements to technology valued at nearly $500,000 in the Harlan County School District are nearly completed, giving students and staff state of the art quality connections comparable to other large districts located in metropolitan areas.
Simply stated, 15-year-old equipment has been replaced with top of the line equipment designed to provide enhanced communications opportunities to staff and students, said Harlan County Schools Technology Director David Burkhart.
Keith Temple, supervisor of engineering for Step Communications Group, was in the district overseeing much of the installation of enhance networking equipment which ties not only schools to the central office, but the entire district to the world.
Temple used the analogy of taking the district from a one-lane road to a four-lane divided highway. “We not only widened the highway, but we also raised the speed limit,” he said.
He explained networking equipment is very important to students who normally take it for granted because they simply aren’t aware of what is required for them to make internet connections. He said when one plugs devices into the wall, “They just expect them to work. Well, it is the same with technology. It is there and they expect to have service when they connect.”
Harlan County Schools Superintendent Mike Howard said with the rapid change in technology “We are fortunate to be able to offer this enhanced technology through upgrades for our students and teachers. We have completed essential equipment installation in all schools, but are still working for increased bandwidth for transport of services from the district office to three schools serviced by circuit providers other than AT&T.”
Burkhart said, “Essential, core data communication devices have been installed at the district hub, which is located at the central office, and at all school main distribution facility hubs (MDFs).”
He said the new devices have replaced aging devices that transported Internet and educational programs, services and information to schools.
“The new, more dynamic devices, replaced outdated, older electronic network equipment, improving data transport districtwide,” said Burkhart.
High quality wireless access equipment was installed in all district schools and the central administrative office, providing much improved quality connections. Teachers are now able to use the district’s wireless system with students instantly due to improved speed and connections.
Burkhart said he was pleased with the installation, noting minimal interruptions of service occurred during the school day for the two-week period.
Burkhart and Superintendent Mike Howard noted that an 85 percent discount for the project resulted from the district’s approved application filed with the federal E-Rate program, managed by the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC). The USAC is a division of the Federal Communications Commission. (FCC).
During a recent meeting of the board of education, Burkhart explained that the vendor for the project was Avaya. He noted the equipment is excellent, adding it is used by Fortune 500 companies and provided the same type equipment for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
With the new technology, the district IT staff has enhanced capabilities to view what is taking place in the system and can isolate issues as they arise.
He said the district’s technology staff is working with the telecommunication vendor to increase bandwidth to all schools. He said a quality connection requires both quality equipment and quality transport circuits. “We now have the upgraded transport circuit connected to five schools and circuits are nearly completed for other schools.